The Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship: A Policymaking Success Story
The latest assessment of the Alison Review shows real progress and demonstrates the importance of policy design
8 Mar 2023

The last few years have seen an explosion of interest in female entrepreneurship with reports being commissioned across the world including the Rose Review, The State of Women’s Entrepreneurship in Canada, Support For Female Entrepreneurs by the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the Women’s Entrepreneurship Report by the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).  

To mark International Women’s Day, we wanted to take a deeper look at the Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship (the Rose Review) and the progress that has been made since its publication four years ago.  

The Rose Review was commissioned by HM Treasury and led by Alison Rose, Group Chief Executive Officer of NatWest Group. The central goal of the review was to tap into the huge unrealised economic potential of female entrepreneurs by making the UK the best nation in the world for women to start and grow their businesses. The report estimates that empowering female entrepreneurs could add up to £250 billion to the UK economy. 

Despite being the startup capital of Europe, the Rose Review found that only a third of UK entrepreneurs were female, amounting to a gender gap of 1.1 million businesses. With only 6% of women running their own business, the UK lagged behind Canada (15%), USA (11%), Australia and the Netherlands (both 9%). Moreover, the report found female-led businesses were smaller than male led-businesses, averaging at 44% of the size.  

The report proposes a number of initiatives to improve female start-up and scale-up rates that are worth reading about in more detail here. They include: 

  • Creating an ‘Investing in Female Entrepreneurs Code’ to promote greater transparency in UK funding allocation 

  • UK banks and investment funds should commit to launching new investment vehicles 

  • Incentivise UK based institutional and private investors to offer further support 

  • Improve access to childcare by creating new banking products aimed at entrepreneurs with family care responsibilities 

  • Improve access to business advice by expanding the entrepreneur and banker in residence programs  

  • Expand mentorship and networking opportunities through public and private sector collaboration 

  • Accelerate the development of enterprise education in schools and colleges  

  • Create a comprehensive “digital first-stop shop” for entrepreneurs  

Progress Report 2023 

Four years later, the headline figures are positive. The 2023 Rose Review annual progress report found that female founders built more new businesses last year than ever before with 150,000 new companies formed. This is more than double than in 2018 prior to the review.  

The progress report also demonstrates successful follow through on their commitment to improve access to funding and transparency. This includes the successful launch of the Investing in Women Code which continues to attract new signatories from across the funding landscape with 190 organisations signed up so far. Additionally, the Women Backing Women campaign has engaged thousands of new angel investors and changes to the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) and Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) have enabled more female entrepreneurs to benefit.  

The Rose Review has also been a catalyst for a growing network of support programs aimed at female founders. In 2022 alone, the Rose Review and its partners provided 800,000 opportunities to female entrepreneurs including access to direct funding, mentorship, education and networking programs. Initiatives included the Invest in Women Hub, Natwest’s Dream Bigger campaign, Barclays Female Founders Accelerator and Santander's Women Business Leaders’ Mentoring Program. The review has also seen a number of policies developed to help mitigate the challenges faced by disproportionate childcare responsibilities, including NatWest’s Partner Leave policy.  

Effective policymaking at its best 

The Rose Review should be celebrated as a successful template that highlights the importance of implementation strategy and offers key lessons for future policymakers. 

  1. Appointing the right people 

In Alison Rose, the government selected a credible candidate with credibility across the financial industry to lead the review. Crucially, they selected a candidate who was committed to seeing through the implementation of review and who was an optimal position to coordinate that process as the head of a bank.  

  1. Realistic and well-thought-out recommendations 

The Rose Review set ambitious but achievable goals that were within the power of ecosystem actors to implement without relying upon a significant shift in national policy. The review asked the right questions and had a clear view of where the opportunity gaps were for the sector. Of equal importance was that the authors were able to secure significant buy-in for the recommendation from the ecosystem.   

  1. Effective implementation and results tracking 

Unlike many reports into important areas of policy, the Rose Review has not been filed away and forgotten about. The annual progress reports clearly outline the various initiatives that have been set up to implement the recommendations of the report, while also measuring progress through key metrics and economic indicators.  

To read about more programs that policymakers have introduced to benefit female entrepreneurs and reduce gender inequality, explore the Atlas: GEN’s Research + Policy Portal. 

Tom Hancock

Research Associate | Global Entrepreneurship Network

Tom is a research associate for the Global Entrepreneurship Network. He is responsible for identifying the most effective policies and tools… More